“Our goal is to double the number of American students abroad”, states Dr. Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the U.S. Institute of International Education (IIE). Twelve American universities travelled to Norway in April to discuss possible future cooperation.
“Today, merely ten per cent of U.S. students study abroad. We want to double this number within the end of the decade”, says Dr. Goodman.
In 2014, IIE launched the initiative Generation Study Abroad. In the coming years they will reach out to educators on all levels and stakeholders in the public and private sectors to encourage purposeful, innovative action to get more Americans to undertake an international experience.
In numbers, approximately 300.000 American students study abroad every year. Of these, around 500 studied in Norway in 2014.
“There should be a thousand American students in Norway. American students normally would not think of Norway as a possible destination. But you have special knowledge in fields like fisheries, energy and the arctic that are interesting for U.S. universities,” Goodman says.
Norway is exotic
One of the actions within Generation Study Abroad is the International Academic Partnership program (IAPP), where American universities are invited to get to know a certain country through webinars and study trips.
Last week, representatives from 12 U.S. institutions visited Norwegian universities and university colleges in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø with the IAPP Norway study tour. Energy and the environment were main themes for the tour.
The IAPP-delegations are organised to countries less used by American institutions, according to Goodman.
“We try to show the American institutions how they can increase cooperation with a certain country. For many Americans, Norway is pretty exotic. But Norway has terrific universities, a safe society and not at least a lot of courses and full degrees in English,” he says.
Donna Anger, Director for International Programs and Initiatives at University of Alaska Fairbanks, was one of the participants of the tour.
“I am here mainly to look at our existing partnerships with Norway in a strategic way. I addition to meet other U.S.-universities interested in Norway, the highlights have been personal interactions with Norwegian institutions, as well as learning about the possibilities offered by the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education,” she says.
As part of the delegation, that all together counted 30 delegates, were also representatives from different fields of study, in addition to staff working on internationalisation. Justin Wettstein from Oregon State University is Assistant professor in College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. He sees the study tour as important to make connections for his home university, and has found interesting fields of collaboration at the University of Tromsø and NMBU at Ås.
“For Oregon, there are a lot of potential collaborators in Norway, especially in the field of renewable energy. I am trying to find areas of excellence for research in Norway that are interesting for us, and make connections between people and groups.”
As for student exchange, Wettstein sees this as a part of the possible research collaborations.
“If we can make research collaborations, this will trickle down to student exchange. There has been a dramatic increase in international students at the University of Oregon lately. These are mainly Asian students. We would like to rebalance this with getting in more Scandinavian students.”
Change the paradigm
Dr. Allan Goodman from the IIE admits the goal of doubling the number of American students going abroad is large.
“The goals are ambitious, but we must try. Our job is to change the paradigm of what it means to be educated. The U.S. depends on the world, and we share problems with so many other countries. Our task is to educate for the future.”